Kralt soldiering on

BARRE CAMPBELL -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

As a soldier in the Canadian Army's infantry, Jason Kralt's duty, according to the National Defence website, is "destroying the enemy," capable of doing the job "anywhere in the world, in any environment."

His role as the Renegades' top middle linebacker should seem relatively simple.

And a little less violent.

But it's one that he has unexpectedly inherited in his fourth season with the Renegades now that Keaton Cromartie requires season-ending knee surgery.

In typical fashion, Kralt spoke of his new role in subdued fashion.

ALMOST HUNG UP CLEATS

At the end of the 2003 season, a year in which he played little and suffered from a nagging hamstring injury, Kralt thought about retiring from football to focus his efforts on his military career.

He was on the verge of hanging up the cleats, but had a change of heart as the off-season grew longer.

"I thought, you know what, I like football," recalled the Ottawa native. "I enjoy it, whether it's just punt team, or being on the field or just hanging out with the guys.

"I just wasn't ready to give it up."

It turned out to be a good decision, because Kralt received more playing time last season.

And this year, he's contributing more than ever. He received more turns at middle linebacker whenever Cromartie moved to the defensive line in certain schemes.

Now with Cromartie out, Kralt's the captain -- or quarterback -- of the defence, relaying plays to his teammates, and making the necessary on-field adjustments and directions.

He made his first interception with the Renegades earlier this month in Vancouver and, on special teams, has also returned a pair of squib kickoffs for decent yardage.

"I cannot complain about this year. I've had fun," he said. "I've had a couple of returns. And when coach (Greg) Marshall (the defensive co-ordinator) gets me in there, I do what I can.

"Whether it's middle linebacker for one game or five games or the rest of the season, it doesn't matter. I'll just do what I can."

Kralt hopes that he'll get a chance to show the coaches he's capable of playing the defence's glory position, but also realizes a trade could be made that could relegate him to a back-up role.

"That's on me," he said. "If I can go out there and make more interceptions and make big plays, then the coaches will have to think twice about putting somebody else in there.

"But I've been around this business long enough to know what's going on. You've got to take it one game at a time, and that's for anybody on the field."

Cromartie, who was getting accustomed to his new role as middle linebacker after playing three years as a defensive lineman, surely knows that after suffering torn knee ligaments last Thursday against Edmonton.

He jammed his foot while running downfield on punt coverage in the third quarter, and felt what he described as "excruciating pain" that he thought was a hyperextension.

MRI REVEALS DAMAGE

But an MRI revealed the damage, and Cromartie hopes to undergo surgery as early as next week so the healing can begin sooner rather than later.

"There's no joy in this, that's for sure," said Cromartie, who rode a stationary bike for a few moments during yesterday's practice. "I was falling in love with the position, calling the plays and getting things lined up."

He said his main concern now is to recover so he can return to the team next season.

"You can only do what you can control," said Cromartie, who doubted he would be able to play if the Renegades advanced into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history this fall.

"I'd just be messing with team chemistry then," he said.


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